Calls for a chocolate tax in war on obesity

Carrying extra: The WHO also estimates that 42 million children under the age of five are obese.

Time for a tax on sugary foods? Obesity kills millions of people each year. After introducing a tax on soft drinks, ministers in the UK are considering extending it to sweets and chocolate.

Every year obesity kills around 2.8 million people globally. In most countries, more people die from being overweight or obese than from being underweight.

The government is due to release its new obesity strategy soon. According to The Sunday Times, it will push for a 20% reduction in sugar in foods commonly eaten by children.

Global obesity has more than doubled since 1980. In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight and over 600 million were obese. This was partly because people have gotten richer, making it easier to overeat. People also do less physical activity now because they sit down more at work and home. Obesity is also linked to poor education and poverty.

In 2014 experts said around $2 trillion was spent on tackling obesity each year — more than on terrorism, armed violence and war put together.

What can be done? The UK and several US cities have introduced taxes on soft drinks. Some want to restrict when adverts for junk food can be shown, and ban cartoon characters that promote unhealthy foods. Others have called for better labels, healthier school food and public health campaigns. But some think this is too intrusive and fails to treat people as adults.

So is a big crackdown worthwhile?

Sweeten the deal

This is a major crisis, say some. It only gets worse when people have more choice. Letting people do what they want encourages them to eat and drink themselves to bad health or even death. Trying to prevent disease is better than curing it, and would save money.

That is arrogance, say others. A crackdown will drive up prices hitting the poor. We all need food, so you cannot treat it the same way as cigarettes or alcohol. Those who want change are panicking. They are well-off people who think everyone else can behave like them and be as thin as they are.

You Decide

  1. Which worries you more: ill health or people thinking they know what is best for you?

Activities

  1. Work in fours. Write and act out two 30-second adverts for TV. One should call for a crackdown on obesity; the other should campaign against it. What message would you want each to give?

Some People Say...

“It is not the government’s job to tell us what is best for us.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
People are overweight or obese when they have too much fat and it poses a risk to their health. Globally these problems have risen significantly, including among children, over decades. Studies show that obesity is linked to access to unhealthy food, poverty and inadequate education.
What do we not know?
Does government action reduce obesity? And does it make people poorer?

Word Watch

2.8 million
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Doubled
According to the WHO.
Less
A 2012 study at an American university found that people around the world were moving less in their daily lives.
Cities
Berkeley in California brought in a sugary drinks tax in 2014. In November 2016, four more cities decided on similar taxes. In the US, states also receive federal government funds to spend on public health — for example, to pay for salad bars in schools.
Can be shown
The plan wants to prevent adverts for junk food being aired before 9pm.

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